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Our First-Ever Hybrid Rocket Science Was a Huge Success (and Tons of Fun)

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This year’s Rocket Science turned out to be nothing short of amazing. Chock-full of interesting and creative endeavors, each of our almost 300 Rocketeers came together in teams from 1 to 50 people to create, inspire, and learn to do something new. What began back in 2012 as an overnight hackathon-type event, has emerged into a passion-fueled 48 hours where all kinds of new skills are put to the test. As always, the goal is to stretch our minds, sharpen our skills, and have an absolute blast doing it. And sometimes, we even create some solutions that our clients fall in love with.

And this year, for the first time ever, Rocket Science was both in-person and virtual to accommodate participation from wherever you found yourself on those two days. We leveraged a really cool new functionality called Gather Town that was AWESOME…included some screenshots in this recap for everyone to see. In an almost video game like style, all Rocketeers, remote and in the office, could meet up in virtual meeting rooms as simply as pushing your arrow keys on your keyboard and walking through the virtual door.

In the weeks leading up to the event, twenty-something projects emerged, and each person was able to find something to join in on that inspired them. This year brought together crafters, technologists, fitness lovers, music lovers, and makers of all different kinds for the most anticipated two days of the year for Rocketeers.

Oh, and there’s also the coveted awards! We all get to vote on our favorite innovations, and we also bring in an esteemed panel of judges to give us their take on our creations. All of 2021 award winners are noted in the write ups below.

The Innovations

The Recommendinator was an exploration of using Machine Learning (ML) to create truly personalized food recommendations based on a user’s past purchases. We built a fictional restaurant’s menu with information about each menu item. We created an app for iOS and Android using Flutter, and provided a simplified ordering and checkout flow, to demonstrate the ML model we built. The result was an app where the recommended items made sense on an individual user basis.

  • Winner: Most likely to succeed
  • Winner: Most commercially viable

Theremin Max recreated the experience of playing a theremin on an iOS device – by waving your hands in the air over the phone, you can control the volume and pitch of the tone. We used the TrueDepth system to measure how far away the users hands are from the device and then feed those measurements into an AudioKit oscillator with effects to turn them into theremin-like sounds.

  • Winner: Silver Medal (Judges Choice)
  • Winner: Best Collaboration

Rocket Science TV was like a simulcast of Rocket Science for those working remotely. We learned a lot about how to stream live video, and the outcome was a fun virtual experience that enabled everyone to feel like they were part of the event, regardless of whether or not they were in-office.

  • Winner: Most Inclusive

Holograms for Telecommunication set out to break the typical fatigue caused in web conferencing apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The goal was to create and interaction that was better than a talking head on a computer screen. We created a prototype that allowed two people to meet over zoom in full height similar to standing in front of each other. We also used the “Peppers Ghost” effect to add depth and dimension and make the interaction feel closer to an “in real life” interaction.

  • Winner: Best Tech
  • Winner: Most Creative

The Back to the Board Games team set out to transform your living room TV into the next generation of board games. The goal of this project was to create an engaging and accessible AppleTV app that the whole room could play and enjoy together. We did this by combining great design with MultiPeer Connectivity to recreate the popular board game “Secret Hitler.” While the design and AppleTV interface kept players focused and present on the game, MultiPeer Connectivity allowed everyone to connect their own device locally and keep all the fun under the same roof. With the Apple TV handling the game board and gameplay logic, and the iPhone or iPad devices prompting the player to make a move on their turn, it was set up to be a simple painless way to get a game going in a less stressful and less messy way. We were successfully able to get the project off the ground and connect each player locally through Bluetooth/Wi-Fi and display the game board once the game had started. We ended up with a beautiful design and structure and had an all-around blast of a time working on something exciting that we normally wouldn’t have the chance to build.

  • Winner: Bronze Medal – Judges Choice

The Crane Army team set out to recreate an amazing paper crane installation at the Bottle Rocket office. (Note: The prior installation, created at a Rocket Science many years ago was destroyed, leaving everyone longing for a rebirth). While folding paper cranes may sound simple, the amount needed to recreate this beautiful and inspirational installation was massive. With Rocket Science’s largest team, we far exceeded the goal of folding 1,001 cranes. The team was able to catch up in unstructured conversations, connect with new Rocketeers, and find a moment of zen we all needed in our current chaotic world. We folded 116 Pink Cranes, 183 Red Cranes, 142 Orange Cranes, 142 Yellow Cranes, 174 Green Cranes, 201 Blue Cranes, 114 Purple Cranes and more are still in production!

  • Winner: Best Overall

The Pants! VR team set out to reimagine a game that Bottle Rocket’s gaming division, Thruster, released back in 2014 called “Pants! Don’t Die Naked.” This year, we recreated the game using Unreal Engine 4.27 as our engine of choice along with features such as Control Rig and Sequencer for custom animations. One of the unique things about the “coding” of this game is that we didn’t write a single line of C++, but instead used Blueprint Visual Scripting. While we did run into some texture modeling issues we were still able to deliver a complete game that included all the original features we mapped out. During the Science Fair, the game was playable on Oculus Quest. Since we used OpenXR it will also be playable on all major headsets with little to no changes required. We had an amazing time learning and creating on a platform that we don’t get to work as much as we’d like in our day-to-day roles and look forward to continuing to polish this game in our downtime.

  • Winner: Gold Medal (Judges Choice)

The Hybrid Work & Accessibility created a place to make suggestions for a more inclusive work environment. We were able to gather quite a few suggestions for in-person, remote and hybrid options to bring more inclusivity and accessibility to our daily lives.

The Fitbit v2 is a Slack bot built to bring fitness to all Rocketeers in our new Work from Wherever world. It talks to the Strava app APIs so we can call a leaderboard of active minutes each team member has each week so others can see how they are ranking among the group. We also set up workout routines that have a custom inspirational message built in.

Story Nodes created a distributed mobile game that used App Clips to engage its components. Players could play and retain their character without ever creating a login, and content was accessible only by finding secret node points throughout the world

Team Rocket Squares made a collage of handmade fabrics, as members taught each other how to knit, crochet, weave and embroider. Together, we strengthened our abilities to teach, listen and learn — skills that are core to our role as trusted advisors to our clients.

Make some music! was created with the desire to create a space for anyone, truly anyone, to come and learn the basics of Logic Pro and to then create their very first songs. Sometimes we just need some technical training to be able to create the music that is in our minds.

The Greetir 3.0 team created yet another iteration on our existing Bottle Rocket entry way virtual receptionist that we rely on for checking in visitors in the lobby. This year’s iteration utilized a Microsite/QR code experience and two-way live streaming notifications to Slack. We were able to interview the office experience team, build wireframes, develop creative and a feature backlog while also building out a working, dev built out a working POC of the live streaming notifications.

Rocket Science Soundtrack Tournament engaged all project teams to submit songs that captured the experience of Rocket Science. Songs then entered a single elimination tournament to produce a playlist that captured the experience of this year’s Rocket Science.

WellnessU is an iOS and Android internal app that offers a fun way of establishing a first connection between Rocketeers. We saw this as an opportunity to build and foster connection and community among Rocketeers, regardless of location or discipline and a way to learn more about fellow Rocketeers, especially as we grow quickly and Work from Wherever. We also wanted to provide an inspirational, personal boost for fellow Rocketeers who are feeling low or looking for a quick moment of encouragement. During Rocket Science, we were able to create a working app prototype with UI completed and 100+ crowdsourced data points from Rocketeers.

BRWare: A Godot Collaboration was a collaboration of micro game experiences that came together between five developers using Godot, in which four developers had no prior experience, each with mixed levels of programming knowledge in general. The result was a full game with about 5-10 minutes of gameplay, with all the expected experiences you would get with a full game, including start, middle and end states along with sound, music, and custom art. The whole game is playable with a packaged DMG available for download and very few bugs.

Paint Minis and Chill set out to do exactly that. Our goal was to get together and share our love of the hobby of painting tiny plastic things with anyone who was curious. Though we didn’t manage to complete as much as we expected, much fun was had and there are now a couple dozen fewer unpainted miniatures out there in the world.

Our New Overlord 2021 was the team’s fifth year working on the robot affectionately named Gary. This year’s Rocket Science additions included a new GaryAPI built to run on a Raspberry Pi, allowing Rocketeers to control Gary manually from anywhere in the world through the Bottle Rocket VPN. A companion Flutter app that uses this API was built, and more servo motors were installed in Gary’s left hand, along with the requisite Arduino code to control those new servos once they are calibrated.

Nebula was a continuation of an adhoc API orchestration generator project. For Rocket Science, the efforts were focused on a UI prototype written in Flutter.

Paint Pouring 101 was an attempt to learn to paint via a very interesting (and quite therapeutic), no brush method called paint pouring. We attempted various techniques, various types of paint, different thicknesses or viscosities of paint, and interesting tools (like a hairdryer) to achieve the look we were going for. All in all it was much harder than anticipated to get the paint to “do” what you wanted it to do, but so fun to test and learn along the way.

Bottle Rocket Sign Shoppe 2.0 was an extension and evolution of a prior Rocket Science project from years past. Every year, the finale of Rocket Science includes a “Science Fair like presentation” where each team gets to show-off what they’ve created over the span of two days. Presentation value helps teams impress the judges but carving-out the time for that can be hard when time is limited. The Rocket Science Sign Shoppe was created in 2019 to help teams by designing signage, pop-up displays, and other visual aids to help teams tell their stories without having to divide their attention between that and the work they came to do.

This year, the challenge was to support teams in person and on-line. Our team took-on 19 projects from concept to execution. Projects ranged from hand-cut and lettered stand-up displays, to slide shows, to digitally designed signage. Each was one unique and planned with the teams to become a fun representation of each individual experience during the expo/science fair.

Rocket Coin is a community driven blockchain platform built by Rocketeers that promotes employee engagement and financial well-being by empowering employees to be rewarded for living our values and practicing behaviors that build value for our clients, company, and community. We defined how Rocket Coin would work, including governance, grants, and marketplace dynamics. We also selected a build approach and decided on Ethereum blockchain (ERC-20) using Solidity and Remix with a smart code that makes it safe and beneficial to hold over the long-term.

The iOS App Clip project set out to create a lightweight payment system that integrated “Sign in with Apple” and “Apple Pay.” This would allow a client application to accept a payment from a user, through an App Clip, without that user having to do a full download from the App Store. The user would also be able to avoid going through the process of creating a new profile and adding their payment information. This integration has the potential to reduce a 10-15 minute process in some cases down to seconds, likely increasing usability/utility, full app conversions, security at the point of sale, and reduced client overhead by automating the payment process.

Gone Fishing was a chance to escape the digital space and work with my hands on a passion of mine, building a fly-fishing rod. The intent was to learn and improve new skills to create a more decorative but still very functional fishing rod. I also wanted to see how much I could get done in the allotted time if I focused and worked toward the goal of completion. Although I learned, practiced, and implemented new techniques, I was not able to complete a full rod, but made significant progress and am very happy with the way it is turning out. I will continue in my free time hoping to have the project complete in the next couple weeks.

Flappy Paper Cranes is a recreation of the popular mobile game for augmented reality. The development of the game incorporated photogrammetry, generating a 3D model from photos of a real paper crane. This model was then brought into the game, blurring the line between digital and physical, and increasing engagement.

That’s it for this year’s Rocket Science. In the words of our founder, “It’s proof that a small group of committed and passionate people all leaning in the same direction can achieve big things together.” Already looking forward to next year’s Rocket Science!


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